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“Ask a Priest: What’s a Single Person to Do?”
Q: It seems as though the Catholic Church places heavy emphasis on marriage. Although I feel called to marriage, I am not married at this time. This is not due to a lack of effort and prayer on my part. As a single Catholic, is there any value to my existence as far as the Church is concerned? If the answer is yes, then why don’t I ever hear about the virtues and beauty of being single? If marriage really is better than the single life, then why don’t we, as a Church, help singles to get into a marriage, especially if those singles feel called to that state? Something as simple as prayers for singles at Mass would be great. If it helps in how you answer these concerns, I do serve as a lector at Mass and teach in a Catholic school. Yet, I feel like a non-entity within my faith community. Thank you for your time and God bless you. -C.C.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Of course you have value in the eyes of the Church! You are a dearly beloved daughter of God — and a gift to the rest of us.
You touch on a valid point, however. The ministry and works of the Church often overlook singles. This might be linked to lots of reasons. For one, limited resources tend to be used in family-oriented needs. Second, the single life traditionally hasn’t gotten as much attention as it deserves; indeed, it has often been seen (including by many singles themselves) as an interim phase of life. The Church arguably has been slow to respond to this sector of the faithful.
First, I’d suggest that you try to see this time of your life as an opportunity. See it as a chance to spend time going deep in your prayer life, enriching your intellectual formation and specifically your knowledge of the faith, and engaging in works of charity and apostolate within the Church. There is no shortage of other folks out there who could probably use your help and talents. (It sounds as if you are already doing that, which is great.)
This will help you to avoid that temptation to put life on hold. Every moment of life is a gift of God, and every moment is time you have to draw closer to him. By using your talents, etc., for the good of others, especially your students, you are also giving glory to God.
I mention all this because — let’s be honest — there is no guarantee of meeting Mr. Right. There never is. What is important is that you don’t leave your life “in neutral” in the meantime. If you have a full life of prayer, apostolate and work, and a network of good friends, you are more likely to spend your time in healthy circles where you have a better chance of meeting a good man.
In the meantime, feel free to suggest ideas to your parish. That idea of praying for singles (perhaps in the petitions at Mass) would be a great idea. If social prospects are limited in your parish, look for something at the diocesan level – or start something, if nothing now exists. (For further reading, check out Mary Beth Bonacci’s materials here.)
It might be good to keep in mind, too, that marriage has its own crosses. More than a few spouses suffer grievously (and quietly) because of difficult partners, family illnesses, tensions with in-laws, financial strains, etc. This isn’t meant to dissuade you, but to be a reminder that everyone suffers in the mystical body of the Church.
In case you ever feel unloved, glance at a crucifix to remind yourself that Someone loved you so much that he died for you.
Count on being in one of my Mass intentions. God bless.
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I can relate to a lot of the points made by this person. I’m also single – 59, never married, now retired – and often feel like I don’t belong. Being single is a state of limbo, like you’re the kid left on the bench when teams are being picked and then someone realizes you’re there and they include you. They do blessing for mothers and fathers and married couples and grandparents and children going back to school….never anything for singles. There are family movie nights and lunches for seniors (I’m not quite there yet) but nothing for singles. Given that ‘singleness’ is a steadily growing demographic, the Church really does need to actively seek us out (and not just young singles!!) and make us feel a part.
I know God loves me but you can’t touch him and sometimes I really want a hug or someone to sit beside me and hold my hand or go for a spur of the moment walk with me (or even to help open a pickle jar!) People choose (or sense a calling) to a religious vocation or they choose to marry, but when you’re single because you were never asked, it wasn’t something you chose. There was no ‘calling’, it was a lack of any other option. It’s the default setting, like God forgot about you. I know He didn’t but on bad days, it can feel that way.
As Fr said, there are bonuses to being single and marriage isn’t a guarantee of happiness. As a single, I can do what I want, when I want and I was able to devote myself to caring for my elderly parents. However, now that they are gone, I’m floundering a bit, trying to discern what my purpose in life is. If the pandemic ever allows it, I’ll search out some places to volunteer I guess and hope that fills the hours.
(Sorry, usually I’m pretty upbeat but I think the pandemic lock downs have worn me out – too much time alone!)